Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Shots fired - a lot of them - near Chester polling place

Poll workers in Chester, Delaware County, worry that the state's new voter ID bill could suppress turnout. You know what else suppresses turnout? Gunshots.

Shots fired - a lot of them - near Chester polling place

Bullet hole from prior shooting
Bullet hole from prior shooting

Poll workers in Chester worry that the state's new voter ID bill could suppress turnout. You know what else suppresses turnout? Gunshots.

I just returned from a polling place on Johnson Street in Sun Village, a watch-your-back neighborhood in Chester's East Side, where more than a dozen shots rang out after the polls opened this morning.

"We have a lot of people who walk here to vote. We want to protect them but how can we?" asked Ashaki-Imani Prince, a judge of elections. "They'll be afraid they might be shot."

The voting booths are located inside a garage that already has a couple bullet holes in it – including one that went through the front door into the back wall – from a previous shooting.

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"I think that was from last summer," said poll watcher John Coleman. "They used to do their thing at night, but now they don't care," he said of neighborhood thugs. Coleman pointed to what used to be the light above the garage. "We put in a new light and they shoot it right out."

Sheriff Joseph McGinn declined to post a deputy at the polling place because the shooting was not in the immediate vicinity. "It’s my understanding that there wasn't a safety issue," he said.

But Vanessa Cottman, another judge of elections, said the shots were "close enough for us to hear." She figures that's close enough for some additional protection. A Chester police officer was cruising around the neighborhood when I showed up. Cindy Scharr at the Delaware County Daily Times has more info on the shooting.

"We're law-abiding citizens and we need to be protected just like any other precinct," said Doreen Coleman, a majority inspector there. "I don't want to be a Trayvon Martin."

Only 33 people had voted at the garage as of 1:06 p.m. All of them had their ID, by the way.

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William Bender and Stephanie Farr
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